Senior staffer in governor’s office tests positive for COVID-19
Gov. JB Pritzker speaks from his home in Chicago during Monday's video news conference updating the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The daily news conference is now being done via video conference as he and senior staff are now working from home because a staffer has tested positive for COVID-19. (Credit: blueroomstream.com)
Pritzker says operations will continue while all staff work from home
By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – All senior staff in Gov. JB Pritzker’s office are working from home after a senior staff member tested positive for COVID-19, the governor’s office announced Monday.
The unidentified staffer tested positive last week and has so far not shown any symptoms of the disease, but the person is reported to have been in close contact with the governor and other staff members.
Pritzker said during his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday in Chicago that he did not have direct contact with the individual, but that the person had taken part in large meetings with him and other staff. Pritzker also said that he has tested negative for the disease and was last tested Sunday morning.
Most of the estimated 125 employees in the governor’s office have been working from home for weeks, but about 20 staff members have been reporting to work in person at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago, where Pritzker had been holding daily media briefings about the crisis. The governor halted weekend briefings Thursday, and Monday’s event was held via video conference.
Pritzker plans to continue his daily briefings, which are streamed live on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
In a news release, the governor’s office said staff members have followed safety protocols from the Illinois Department of Public Health, including daily temperature checks, wearing face coverings, and practicing social distancing and strict hygiene procedures.
The news of an infection within the governor’s office came just days after reports that two people in the White House – a spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence and a valet for President Donald Trump – had also tested positive.
Those developments have prompted questions about how any workplace can be made safe in the current environment, even as some businesses, churches and legislative Republicans have been pushing Pritzker to reopen the state sooner.
Last week, Pritzker outlined a five-phase plan for gradually reopening the state on a region-by-region basis, only if they meet certain benchmarks for infection rates and hospitalization usage over a 28-day period. He said Monday that he is not yet ready to relax those standards.
“People who open their businesses at this time, knowing that mitigations are just now beginning to help us bend the curve down – we’ve flattened it, but the goal here is to bend the curve down, ultimately – that by opening early, they’re putting people at risk,” he said.